Monday, September 15, 2014

2014: Week 37

At the beginning of Week 37, Greenwich saw the end of the Tall Ships Festival. I took this during a "Photo Run" (what I call when I run and take photos, which also gives me a chance to stop occasionally.) This was my favourite ship of all of them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My 10 Books Challenge

The latest viral craze to hit Facebook is the 10 Books Challenge. More specifically, you are asked to, "Rules: don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard. They don't have to be the "right" books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way."

If it doesn't involve ice water, count me in.

Friends have listed their 10 books, but I'd like to know the back story of why they were chosen. So if you're curious, here's my list and a short explanation as to why I chose them: 

1. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White: My first favourite book. I remember clearly being captivated by it while reading it at my Grandmother's house. To this day, I have absolutely no fear of spiders because of it, and I also apologise to them when I mistakenly walk into their webs. It also has the best concluding line of all time, (pause to go downstairs to get my copy-- that moved here to London with me-- to get it right): "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." (For what it's worth, I've written about my love of Charlotte's Web before. Click here to read the post from February 2007)

2. Anything in the canon of Judy Blume, but especially, "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret." Judy Blume taught me about the world, and also helped me understand the truly awkward pre-teen/teenage years. 

3. A Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maughm. I spent an entire trip to Ireland devouring this in the back of our rental car while we drove around the country. For the life of me, I can't remember much about the plot beyond it's about a man's search for himself. The thing I do remember clearly was my mother's annoyance that I wasn't looking out the window more. 

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. We had to read this for high school English, just like everybody did. But despite its status as required reading, I loved experiencing the excesses of the Jazz Age.

5. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. This is an absolutely insane book, and for that reason alone, I love it. Vonnegut was one in a million.

6. Our Town by Thornton Wilder. This isn't a book, it's a play, but this is my list, so I'm following my own rules. Another one read in high school that left a mark.

7. Prelude to a Kiss by Craig Lucas. While I'm thinking about plays that I loved, this is another one. I first saw it on Broadway with Timothy Hutton and Mary Louise Parker, where Hutton received resounding applause for taking off his shirt. A beautiful story about love in all its guises.

8. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I still remember reading this when I was at university. I felt as if a whole new universe had opened up to me. The moral of the story: Be careful when you're chasing after your parrot. (Not really, but that lesson did stay with me.)

9. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Now that we're firmly in my strident feminist phase, which, by the way, I'm still in, I had to include this. Taught to me by my mentor and friend June Lytel-Murphy, who was a force of nature. 

10. The Collected Essays of E.B. White. Another E.B. White book, another book (one of the few) that was moved to London. Important to me not so much because of the essays, which are great, but because it was the first gift my husband gave to me. Also, it's got to be said, E.B White was a fantastic writer. I want to be like him when I grow up.

10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This was the second book given to me by husband. Frankly, he had my heart forever when he gave me books as presents. 

11. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. I'm not one for magic realism normally, but I did love this book, and its recipes. Read while I was living with my parents after graduate school, waiting to get my first journalism job. Borrowed from the Flemington Library.

12. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I know that I read this book earlier in my life-- probably around high school-- but I'm putting it here as I had a spirited discussion with a very senior judge in Illinois about how we both loved this book. 

13. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. A bomb goes off in Greenwich Park. Purchased at the £1 book store soon after we moved to SE10. I loved it because I could clearly picture where all the action occurred. 

14. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It's a CLASSIC for a reason, folks. Yes, it's long. Get over it. 

15. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I was fascinated by the description of the lives of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, but was more moved by the feelings of displacement experienced by an expat. I got that.

16. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. A very clever book, which in turn inspired me to change the structure of the book I'm working on, which I hope to finish soon. 

Now I wanted to see how I compared with others who have made their lists. The Atlantic compiled the list of the top 100, and of my top 16 (I was never one to follow the rules), I had six, or just over a third. If you want to see the list for yourself, click through this sentence to read the story from The Atlantic. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

2014: Week 36

Weel 36 of 2014 featured two events, one monumental and the other just fun. The first is above. It was the first day of school for Thing one and Thing Two. For Thing Two, this was the first day of secondary school, which was a big deal.
The second was the annual summer party of my husband's company. All manner of fun was had at the fair, let me tell you.

Monday, September 01, 2014

2014: Week 35

In Week 36, we celebrated our 19th Anniversary (a week early) with a few days away in the Peak District. This is the view of the Chatsworth Estate from our hotel window.